'Dungkabah' by Edwin Lee Mulligan | States of Poetry WA - Series Two

There’s two points of view about country, there’s a whitefella way of looking at country: seeing country as commodity, things they can take from the land and what they can make of it that can be useful. In my country there’s a lot of minerals. From diamond, gold, copper, oil, you name it. It’s all there for the taking. There is also uranium and gas. This country is very rich they say. But from an Aboriginal point of view there is another way of looking at country. The country dreams for her children.

For example gas ... the most desired mineral right now in the Kimberleys. For us she is a lady. She is part of our country’s richest mining deposit in Australian history. She’s a very rare expensive mineral that is highly toxic and a poisonous liquid substance hidden miles beneath us, within the Earth crust.

I’m going to tell you about this lady. Her English name is Valhalla, meaning the land of the dead. She is the most feared woman that ever walked the face of the earth. There were many stories that been foretold about this woman: stealing people from their sleep, possessing whole clan groups with silent death sleeps, leaving them to wake up into the spirit world, entombed in termite mounds for eternity.

They considered her to be very dangerous but to me, she’s like a mother. She’s been dreaming country. Dreams of ghost walking termite mounds in the distance through grassless plains.

She held my hand and walked me through country, speaking to the land and the land was listening. There’s a message being brushed up by the wind, her whispering words of burning grass dancing with tongues of fire.

When I stand on my spirit country, Ballil, I look down from the ridge. I see grassless plains where she once walked devouring innocent souls for her liking. We are continually warning people, even the hungry mining dog companies about a treacherous woman. She is poison.

Her name is Dungkabah (whisper)

Edwin Lee Mulligan


‘Dungkabah’ was commissioned for the dance theatre production Cut the Sky (2015) by Marrugeku.

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